Recent studies rank Oklahoma as one of the worst states for women to live and work, and business leaders need to do more to support women business owners.
It’s easy for business leaders and lawmakers to say they support women in the workforce, but many of them do not understand the situation.
Studies from the personal finance website WalletHub and Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business recently revealed women in Oklahoma are at an extreme disadvantage. Oklahoma was ranked one of the worst states for women to live in regarding economic and social well-being, health care, safety, poverty level and incarceration rates.
Women are being pushed out of the workforce due to a lack of affordable child care, health care and support for single, working mothers, who head nearly one-fourth of all Oklahoma families.
The annual cost of child care in Oklahoma is greater than the cost of in-state tuition at a public, four-year university, creating an additional financial burden for women to overcome.
With these obstacles in place, what can the business community and state representatives do to help female entrepreneurs?
The first step is to offer intentional career opportunities for Oklahoma women, including those without college degrees or high school diplomas. Only 19% of Oklahoma women have completed a four-year college education, while 20% did not graduate from high school. As a female business owner, it’s a priority to hire women like myself who did not come from traditional educational backgrounds and offer them competitive and equitable pay from the beginning.
We can also fight for women by investing in their professional development. Mentors can provide a space for women to explore new ideas and plan for their futures. This is especially true for aspiring female entrepreneurs who strive to make their dreams a reality and break into male-dominated industries.
Significant challenges are associated with jump-starting a business, including the difficulty of balancing parenthood and career goals. However, women shouldn’t be forced to choose between the two. The solution begins with dedicating resources to statewide female education and supporting programs dedicated to helping women achieve financial sufficiency. Doing so will lessen the gender pay gap and create a solid foundation for future endeavors.
Oklahoma working women are in crisis, and everyone in our state is suffering. The business community and state representatives must advocate for women-owned companies and female entrepreneurs and lend support during this time of great need.
Lauren Mingee is the founder and CEO of Oklahoma City-based marketing firm Quintessa Marketing and a business coach for women.